Blu-ray Shopping Bag: Scanners - Criterion Collection -

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Blu-ray Shopping Bag: Scanners - Criterion Collection

Frame by Frame

By Robert T. Trate     July 22, 2014

Scanners out now on Blu-ray
© Criterion Collection
My parents were not the sort to allow me to watch a film like Scanners. Is it overly graphic or disturbing? In 1981, yes. By today’s standards a film about people who have telepathic abilities would probably be considered an art house film or a low budget Sci-fi film. Scanners is all that, disturbing, graphic, and low budget. Since it was crafted by David Cronenberg (The Fly, Shivers, Dead Ringers), the film also reaches into politics, self worth, and pure unadulterated horror. Criterion Collection released Scanners (Spine #712) last week with a special edition Blu-ray and it is worth every penny.  

I did, eventually, see Scanners. I was on a horror kick and decided it was time to watch as many horror films as possible and their sequels. Scanners was easy, unlike Friday the 13th, because there were only three of them. The video store in which I worked had all three. They were haphazardly sitting there on the shelf just waiting for their next victim. The problem with binge watching, as many of you know, is that they all blend together. So in the past 20 years, I really couldn’t remember much about the first Scanners. I never forget that the incomparable Michael Ironside played the villain, “The Prisoner” (Patrick McGoohan) was in there, and that the film was directed by the same guy who did The Fly remake. So when I started watching the film again, imagine my surprise that it wasn’t the plot to Scanners II: The New Order.
Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. What I have always loved about Criterion releases is there incessant need to deliver a release like no other. The only distributor that even comes close is Scream Factory. Criterion accomplishes that goal again with incredible special features, both dated and new, as well as new artwork for the film’s box. Sure, they could have cranked out the same old image with Ironside all white eyed and screaming. Instead, they deliver a piece of art that complements the film. Yet, it didn’t stop there. The inside cover keeps unfolding to reveal even more and the menu on the Blu-ray is a progression of these images. If only every movie, in the theater or at home, could set a mood like this Blu-ray.

The toughest thing about re-releasing a film is the comparison one has to their first experience. When I saw Scanners on VHS, it was scratched, dirty, and had those pesky wavy lines running throughout.  Believe it or not, that, too, sets a mood. It was as if this film was something that I was not meant to see, that it either escaped or found its way into my hands. The contradiction to that is watching it with a 2K digital film transfer. The picture now leaps off the screen. To watch Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack) arrive at the mall and see the colors instantly pop is a joy. The red tables which are next to the blue chairs that have purple cushions, is something you never would see on VHS. Why is this important? Our hero Vale is in a world without color. He lives on the streets and is dirty. Everything is second hand to him, yet he walks on the fringe of so much joy, he just can’t take part in it. Am I reading into it? Perhaps, but that is what the scene revealed to me. The Blu-ray also opened up the grungie location in which McGoohan’s Dr. Ruth integrates Vale. All of that detail is lost on a VHS tape or TV broadcast. 
It must be mentioned as this film has one of the most paused and rewound scenes in all of movie history. Fear not, as two special features deal with Lois Del Grande’s demise. “The Scanners Way” and “Mental Saboteur” go into how the scene was accomplished and why Ironside is clearly not next to his victim. 
If you are interested in picking up Scanners, but are hesitant because you already have it, I say this release is worth the money. The special features are incredible and David Cronenberg’s first film, Stereo, is presented here as well with a 2K restoration. The artwork is sublime and Michael Ironside, both in the film and in the interviews, reminds you why he is one of your favorite bad guys. Yes, this Criterion simply blew my mind!
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Showing items 1 - 2 of 2
mellowdoux 7/22/2014 10:30:44 AM

 My hope is that the Criterion version of this movie has restored Stephen Lack's acting abilities. Those have been sadly missing from every previous version of the movie I've viewed.

tiredjay 7/25/2014 10:10:06 AM

 Louis Del Grande, not Lois.



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